Who really owns Everton FC?
With the fans revolting and the club in chaos, new reports suggest sanctioned billionaire Alisher Usmanov sat in on manager interviews
Dear readers — what a week last week was. From profiling the former mayor to helping to save a historic collection of botanical plants, it would be hard to pick a highlight. More importantly still, our ranks continue to expand and with a bit of a push we’ll be at 800 paying members in no time. Onwards, upwards!
Today’s big story is about Everton FC and the questions being asked about its ownership model. Uncertainty has long-since lingered over the exact role of now-sanctioned Uzbek-born businessman Alisher Usmanov at the club, with rumours — which he has always strongly denied — that he is the true controlling party rather than Farhad Moshiri. The Guardian has spoken to associates of several football managers who say their interviews for the top job at Everton took place in Usmanov’s presence. On top of that, we’ve got a penthouse in the park, sharks in the Mersey estuary and the not-so-exciting news of three successive days of sleet showers in this week’s weather forecast.
Our weekend read meeting deposed mayor Joe Anderson put us at the forefront of the local debate on Twitter again. Across six hours of interviews we found Anderson to be a broken man, grappling between an acceptance that his reputation is lost and a desire to try and shift the narrative. The piece got lots of great responses. The Times journalist Patrick Maguire called it a “frank, vivid, humane profile of Liverpool’s fallen boss.” “Fair and balanced writing in the public's interest,” said another commenter. Anyone wanting to read it again but in a different font should head over to The New European newspaper where it has been re-posted after we received a lovely email from their founder and editor, who has just joined up as a member. Matt Kelly wrote: “I am delighted you have taken the initiative and are filling the void for quality journalism in the city.” Cheers Matt!
Or, if you’d like to read local Lib Dem leader Richard Kemp’s response to the piece (Anderson describes Kemp as a man so deceitful he could “crawl under a snake's belly with a top hat on”) then you can do so on his blog here.
Last week paying members received two great pieces. On Tuesday we paid a visit to see the Royal Court Theatre’s best-selling panto and found out how the venue has achieved mass populist appeal through its uber-Scouse shows. Here’s an extract:
“Christie recalls a “theatre-theatre type,” coming along to one performance a while back and saying to him — presumably with their nose pointed so skyward he could count the nose hairs in their nostrils — “how do you get these people to come to the theatre”. These people, Christie noted with bemusement, are people.”
Then on Thursday we were moonlighting as botanical vigilantes with a piece about the threat to the historic collection of plants housed in Croxteth Country Park. Word was that the collection — which dates to the early 1800s but has been severely depleted in recent years — was to be cut in March. But it seems our piece (along with those who spoke out in anger on Twitter) set off fireworks in the corridors of power. The council appears to now be backtracking. “We will sort!” tweeted nearby councillor Harry Doyle. The plants might just be safe after all.
Editor’s Note: The Post now sits on 776 paying members and we’d love to get to the 800 mark by the end of the month. Articles like the Anderson long-read take a lot of time to research and prepare, but we think it's worth it to try and reflect the full nuance and complexity of the story.
Quality journalism isn’t cheap to produce though, and we continue to operate with a very small team on a shoestring budget. Huge thanks to those of you who have joined up already. If you haven’t yet, and you’re able to contribute to the continuation of our project to bring back the kind of journalism Merseyside needs, consider taking out a subscription.
This week’s weather
Monday 🌦️ Sleet showers and a moderate breeze with highs of 5°C
Tuesday 🌦️ Sleet showers with a gentle breeze and highs of 4°C
Wednesday 🌦️ Sleet showers with a gentle breeze and highs of 6°C
Thursday 🌥️ Sunny intervals with a gentle breeze and highs of 5°C
Friday ☁️ Light cloud and a gentle breeze with highs of 5°C
Weekend 🌧️ Cloudy all weekend with light drizzle on Sunday. Temperatures rising to highs of 10°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather.
The big story: Who really owns Everton FC?
Top line: Several football managers have claimed they were interviewed for the managerial job at Everton in the presence of billionaire Alisher Usmanov, raising potential questions about the club’s ownership. The Guardian spoke to multiple sources, whose testimony seemed to support the long-held suspicions of Usmanov having had a larger role at the club than he has let on.
Context: Uncertainty has lingered over the exact role of Usmanov at Everton for years, since Farhad Moshiri — his long-time business associate — bought the club in 2016. The pair were previously linked through their joint shareholding in Arsenal. Usmanov was sanctioned following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, with the EU calling him a “pro-Kremlin oligarch”. He formerly managed the investment holdings arm of Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom and has stakes in many other companies.
The Guardian spoke to associates of three managers who claimed to have interviewed for the job in the presence of Usmanov and the newspaper was made aware of a fourth and fifth (the interviews took place before Usmanov was sanctioned). One potential manager supposedly “left him with the impression that the club belonged to the tycoon” whilst the associate of another said Usmanov offered his own money to close the deal. They said:
“My feeling was that maybe [Usmanov] was helping out with the money and maybe didn’t want to be named as an owner.”
Usmanov said in a statement: “Mr Moshiri did at times turn to Mr Usmanov for advice given the latter’s significant experience in football, but he [Moshiri] made all the decisions.”
Close ties: Usmanov’s links to the club have attracted scrutiny for some time. His 26-year-old nephew, Sarvar Ismailov, joined the Everton board last year but only lasted four months. His companies also signed numerous sponsorship deals with the club, including £30 million for the naming rights of its stadium.
Questions also hang over how Moshiri acquired his original stake in Everton. The pair previously owned a joint shareholding in Arsenal, with Moshiri said to have sold his to purchase a 50% holding at Everton. But as the Guardian reports, “records in the Paradise Papers leak suggest Moshiri’s original Arsenal shareholding was funded by a ‘gift’ from Usmanov”. Moshiri remains insistent that the leak is incorrect.
Freefall: Searching questions about their ownership structure are the last thing Everton need right now. In the words of BBC reporter Phil McNulty, Everton are a “constant tale of chaos” at the moment, sitting second from bottom in the Premier League after narrowly avoiding relegation last season. After a recent 4-1 defeat to Brighton, chief executive Denise Barrett-Baxendale was reportedly “put in a headlock” by angry fans as she left the ground. Chairman Bill Kenwright is said to have received death threats. Our own long-read from the start of last year explored how huge amounts of money have been wasted at the club in recent years:
“When Anglo-Iranian Farhad Moshiri arrived, there was understandable jubilation. Unfortunately, according to [Everton superfan and philanthropist] Dr David France, the club “behaved like inebriated lottery winners, buying ageing cast-offs with no sell-on or residual value.” In the years since, upwards of £550 million has gone on transfers with very little to show for it.”
Everton and Moshiri released a joint statement in response to The Guardian’s reporting, which read: “Mr Moshiri has steadily increased his shareholding in Everton FC since his original purchase of a significant minority stake in 2016. This is and has always been his investment alone, and any suggestion to the contrary is incorrect, irresponsible and not supported by any evidence.”
Your Post briefing
The 22-year-old man charged with the murder of Elle Edwards on Christmas Eve has been named. Connor Chapman — who “has long hair and wore a grey tracksuit” according to the BBC — appeared at Wirral Magistrate’s Court last week, also facing charges of attempted murder, unlawful and malicious wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and possession of ammunition with intent to endanger life. A 23-year-old woman who was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender was released on bail pending further inquiries.
Galeophobes beware: anglers have discovered “a flurry” of shark species in the Mersey Estuary. “Species diversity” in the estuary has more than doubled in the last twenty years according to Mersey Rivers Trust, with smooth-hound, starry smooth-hound and bull huss sharks found in stretches between Howley Weir in Warrington and Perch Rock, Wirral. In total, 37 fish species were recorded, which the trust’s senior project manager Mike Duddy called “amazing” considering the river was considered “biologically dead” in the 70s and 80s.
Halton Council’s children’s services have improved dramatically according to inspectors, after they were previously found to have “significant weaknesses”. In 2021, a highly critical Ofsted report found failings “in social work practice and shortfalls in management, which had ‘failed to safeguard and promote children's welfare’” according to the BBC. Senior managers were said to have reported a large number of cases of neglect but the council lacked a clear strategy to combat it. The council’s new chief executive officer, Stephen Young, has since secured financial investment into children’s services which has “accelerated the much-needed pace of change to the local authority's improvement journey.”
Home of the week
This unique penthouse by the park on Calderstones Road comes with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and more skylights than you could ever possibly desire. The building itself, with its slightly James Bond villain-y look and name (“Sepia”) also provides communal gardens and garage parking space. It’s going for £400,000.
📽️ Roberto Benigni’s tear-jerking classic Life is Beautiful about a Jewish father shielding his son from the realities of the war in a Nazi death camp, is screening on Saturday at Invisible Wind Factory. When the film won Best Picture at the 1998 Olympics, director Benigni had this to say: “I would like to be Jupiter! And kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everybody, because I don't know how to express.” Absolutely. £10.
🗣️ You wouldn’t think that two hours debating whether or not Brexit was a mistake would be a calming Thursday night, but at the South Liverpool Debating Society civilised conversation is the order of the day. Head to Keith’s on Lark Lane on Thursday night to join them (6:30pm for dinner, 7pm for the debate).
🖼️ Visit LIPA on Tuesday or Wednesday for Outside In, where a group of students have created an exhibition of “Raw Art” (that is, works produced by artists unschooled in a formal art education) which is said to explore the “secret and the overt, the obsessive and the cathartic”. Admission is free.
🎶 Royal Liverpool Philharmonic chief conductor Domingo Hindoyan’s Bruckner “[gives] the North-West another rarely heard symphony of epic proportions” according to classical music magazine Bachtrack. Get your tickets to Thursday’s performance here, which is followed by a post-concert question time with Hindoyan. Ticket prices vary.
Our favourite reads
Lynsey Hanley’s ode to Penny Lane in The Guardian is a beautiful look at the street beyond its photograph-clutching barbers and mac-less bankers. ”Sometimes, it’s like living in a theme park,” she writes, noting how having grown up in a pop-worshipping household in Birmingham (where the Beatles were basically regarded as family members) adds to the magic. Hanley sees Liverpool, her second home, as having a unique character not found elsewhere in the country, “irrepressible” and “elaborately gregarious”. It’s a fantastically hopeful piece of writing, and if you enjoy it you should revisit our chat with Hanley about class, council estates and herself.
A month old, but amusing nonetheless. Before Christmas metro mayor Steve Rotheram teamed up with his Manchester opposite number (and pal) Andy Burnham for a charity DJ battle. At the heart of the piece was a question, a mystery rather, to which we’ll probably never have an answer: “who on earth comes out on a weekend night to watch two middle-aged politicians playing records?” Vice went to witness it unfold and an evening of cream blazers, Stones Roses and cameo appearances from members of the shadow cabinet ensued, with macho banter about the Liverpool/Manchester rivalry and the M62. What more could you want?
“Could 2023 be the arts comeback year?” asks Big Issue North in this piece exploring how arts venues across the north are still attempting to shake off the deeply-felt impact of the pandemic. Liverpool gets a lot of attention in the piece, with the Biennial, turning 25 this year after a difficult few years for multiple reasons, hoping to reposition itself as an arts festival of real pedigree with the knowing theme: The Sacred Return of Lost Things. Meanwhile Tate Liverpool is transforming its home on Albert Dock with a £10 million Levelling Up grant and the 156 year old Playhouse is also bidding for a refurb as well as preparing two politically-charged plays under the direction of Suba Das. Then Ian McKellen and John Bishop are going for a lighter touch with the year-round panto production Mother Goose. It’s well worth a read if you’re interested in the future of the city’s arts sector and its general health and wellbeing.
Photo of the week
Liverpool’s Ukrainian community attends a Christmas service at St Sebastians Church. The Julian calendar followed in Ukrainian Orthodoxy marks Christmas on 7 January. Photo by Richard Martin-Roberts/Getty Images.
Letters from readers
What strikes me throughout this whole article is the absolute opacity of our local democracy. There seems to be no real way, at this stage, of knowing what’s true and what isn’t, which is absurd with the amount of money in play. That it’s basically comes down to a ‘he said / she said’ slanging match between politicians is embarrassing for the city — it reminds me of trying to sort out playground disputes as a teacher. I’m not clued up enough about how things are now, but you’d hope it had cleaned up, even marginally. I’ll reserve judgement about Joe. I imagine the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Great article, ‘Living in exile, Joe Anderson thinks we've got him wrong’, Chris McGarvie
They definitely seem to be missing a trick — houseplants are huge right now, my local coffee shop sells calatheas next to the cappuccinos and most people I know can spot the difference between a philodendron and a monstera these days. As suggested, a shop and tours with access to someone know who knows about pest control and potting mediums would surely be a success, ‘Is this the end of Liverpool’s secret garden?’, thewilk